In a decision which would help students, Delhi High Court today rejected a plea of some foreign publishing houses against the sale of photocopies of their textbooks, saying copyright in literary works does not confer “absolute ownership” to the authors.
Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw also lifted a ban on a photocopy shop located at the Delhi University campus from selling photocopies of chapters from textbooks of some international publishers to the students.
“Copyright, specially in literary works, is thus not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public.
“Copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public,” the court said.
The court said the action of making a master photocopy of relevant portions of the books of these publishers “does not constitute infringement of copyright under the Copyright Act”.
“If the facility of photocopying were not to be available, they would instead of sitting in the comforts of their respective homes and reading from the photocopies would be spending long hours in the library and making notes thereof.
“When modern technology is available for comfort, it would be unfair to say that the students should not avail thereof and continue to study as in ancient era. No law can be interpreted so as to result in any regression of evolvement of the human being for the better,” it observed.
In 2012, a group of publishers, including Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press (UK), Cambridge University Press India Pvt Ltd, Taylor and Francis Group (UK) and Taylor and Francis Books India Pvt Ltd, had moved court alleging that Rameshwari Photocopy Service in DU was infringing their copyright over the text books.
Reacting to the judgement, the publishers in a joint statement said, “it is unfortunate that the court’s decision today could undermine the availability of original content for the benefit of students and teachers.”
“We brought this case to protect authors, publishers and students from the potential effects on the Indian academic and educational book market caused by the widespread creation and distribution of unlicensed course packs by a copy shop operating from within the premises of the University, where a legitimate and affordable licensing scheme is already in place,” the statement said.